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Friday, March 27, 2015

Tangler's Block

It happens to many of us.  Tangle, tangle, tangle, block.  Either life gets in the way or we just get stuck. Sometimes it's life stress, and sometimes we can be become blocked about our tangling.

I recently taught an amazing private lesson with a talented tangler who had been feeling stuck.  She has eagerly learned many exciting techniques and patterns and has been exploring larger works in her sketchbooks.  When I visited, she had half of this page completed and kept talking about how she just couldn't finish.  She was stuck, blocked.  She didn't know where to go.  She sounded discouraged.

When tangling becomes frustrating, it's a good time to get back to basics:

  • Breathe.  
  • Appreciate.  
  • Start small.
  • Find comfort in dots and a border.
  • Hug your canvas with a string.
  • Embrace your personal tangle.  Start with the pattern that comes naturally to you.
  • Start and enjoy.

Her piece was, in fact, stunning as it was with the portion above the center band tangled.  Throughout the lesson, I offered several options but knew that only she could choose her outcome:

1.  Accept the piece for what is and consider it finished.  White space can be fantastic in a piece!
2.  Turn the page and start again with a clean and less stressful page.
3.  Put it aside for a while and come back to it when ready to try again.
4.  Breathe and dive in by adding tangles below the border.
5.  Add string lines below the border to fill.
6.  Get back to basics by tangling on a tile to get the creative juices flowing again.

She loved what she had created and really wanted to finish the page.  I admired her determination and hoped that I could help her to get unstuck.  After our breathing exercises and playing with tiles, strings, and patterns, I think she felt freer to explore her piece.

We spent a lovely afternoon tangling, talking, and breathing.  Sometimes we just need a reminder of how wonderful this process truly can be.

I was thrilled when she wrote to me later the same day to thank me for the lesson.  She told me that I had made the process much more enjoyable for her.  Tears came to my eyes when I opened the attachment.  She had finished her piece!  In the same day she was stuck, she discovered the key to unlock her creativity and her passion.  I was proud of her and happy to have been a part of her journey.  She's even sent me additional pictures of additional pieces she has created illustrating that she is still tangling.

The amazing thing is just how much my students inspire me each and every day.

Hooray, Diane!

ZIA by Diane Gray

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I taught a fabulously fun home party with fellow moms from a local mother's club.  Since all of the moms I know tend to have a fair amount of stress (along with lots of love, adorableness, and excitement), I thought this group could use a little zen.

Throughout the night, we giggled every time I mentioned the non-representational, handmade aspect of the Zentangle® method.  The concept was fine, but my made up word choices, "roundish," "circle-like shape," and "straightish" induced chuckles.  Laughter is always great for reducing stress!  I also think that hearing the same idea multiple times can help it to resonate.

We don't need to draw perfect circles or straight lines.  Who can without tools anyway?  I know I can't, and I'm okay with that.  I'm human.  I'm an artist.  I am not trying to be a computer or to replicate some form of perfection.  Instead, I breathe and allow my artistic process to take me on a journey--straight lines or not.

Sometimes there is comfort in knowing we don't have to be perfect.  Moms have to do everything, and lately, it seems like they are expected to do it perfectly.  Even among mothers, there are factions disagreeing about the right or wrong way to parent from feeding and diapering to discipline techniques and education.  There is a lot of pressure to be a parent (I know it's hard for dads too, but I am focusing on moms since the class was moms).  There is a lot of stress with trying to make the right choices while  keeping our kids safe and happy.

We don't have to be perfect.  Our circles can be roundish.  Our lines can be straightish.  Our kids will grow up happy even if we have a cranky day, yell occasionally, or forget to use the orange plate.  They will remember their overall childhoods rather than the few days during which we were human.  Maybe they'll learn more from those human days and see that it is okay to make mistakes.  Maybe they'll be compassionate parents who will try to do the best they can too.

There are no erasers in parenting or in Zentangle®.  We can do our best to try to relax, enjoy some quality time, and breathe.

Everything else ends up perfect-ish.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February is for Love

I had the great privilege of teaching a class at the Hamilton-Wenham Library near Valentine's Day.  It was a lovely evening of tangling.  We had the goal of finding some creativity and relaxation despite the wintery mess we have had in the area lately.  I think we did a great job accomplishing our goal.

Everyone created a stunning tile!  I am impressed by the amazing job they did.

Here is my sample piece I created on a Renaissance tile for the night:

Since the class, I have heard from six participants who professed their love for Zentangle®.  I love when people find a new passion especially when I get to be part of that discovery.  It touches my heart to help someone uncover his or her inner artist through the Zentangle method.  Each of the women has continued to learn more, seek out new books, and ask questions.  One was kind enough to share her beautiful ZIA (Zentangle-inspired artwork) of a tangled heart.  I only taught a few of these tangles in our class together.  :-)  I hope they will all continue on a wonderfully relaxing and creative journey through the Zentangle method.
Tangled heart by Linda Ashley